You plant my tiny feet in a flowerbed white with clouds of lilies of the Nile. A gust of cold wind twirls dead leaves fallen off the master’s winter tree back onto the deck you had just swept clean. And, while the cats skirt round the edge of the garden reluctant to wet their fur with morning dew, the sun gently plucks me from the cold horror of watching you waltz across the patio with your back turned.
This would somewhat be the picture of life I’d come to know.
Grandma’s ignoble hand plucked me from sleep—the depths of divine oblivion: not knowing you’re not home, but back in Johannesburg—said I must quickly bud out or else…
Some of your friends were as charitable as you were. They took me into their fertile soil when you asked, even when they drummed for rain. Their children’s hands plucked me from the water; wrung the love of their mothers out of me.
Love, it fell out of me like stolen pennies until I was inside-out and left with little concept of its currency.
Your lovers. They adored me, it seemed—and I adored them. Their hands, firm and easy, tended the strange soil, lopped twigs off me with premeditated care. They arrived in the night, toting leftovers, then they were gone.
My face turned with the sun. It knew all the yellow buses; knew them well not to return you home. When they do, quickly I see you punch the ticket with your back turned.
August ninety-five comes back to me clear as day.
I run after the heart who’s burst out of my chest, together with him, chasing after the bus, the little Dobermann you left. The last time I see you home.
Petals unfurl in shades of russet; climb the wind like a swarm of Monarchs and fly toward the city that enslaved you. I get lost in a flurry of neon light; grow from rock and thorn where there is no sun. From the depth of the world I become vine; sprout colourful florets, tangling and confusing.
I find you nestled deep in the shadowy woods of Dunkeld West. You scrub grease off the new master’s bone china. I hold wet canvasses I decorated in the gardens of corner Klein and Wolmarans streets; canvasses adorned with abstract dreams and faces of people with Milky Way and stars of Messiers, Centaurus and remnants of Mayall in their eyes. You murmur words that fall and sink into the water and into the clanging of cutlery. Winter blows in the prickling cold; plucks me from the horror of watching you speak to me with your back turned.
My body shudders, and droplets of rain that sat on my skin locking within them dreams I had of you holding me fall to the porcelain floor.
I walk out. I leave you standing there in the kitchen, rinsing dishes in a sink of tears. Nursing regret over the unforgiven wound that sits between us.
In late two-thousand-eight I drive you home. I plant you in the warm earth, near the garden we lost, so your spirit can grow closer to gods you once said shine over me. The following winter I return to your bedside. Still hunchbacked in your sleep—a stone-less mound covered in dead leaves fallen off the winter tree; a cold reminder that I hardly knew your face.
About the Writer:
Abbey Khambule is an African citizen. Johannesburg resident. Creative artist. Loves words, fine art, music and good food. His literary work has appeared in New Contrast, Dye Hard Press, Botsotso, New Coin, DRUM, Sunday World, Kalahari Review, and forthcoming in Aerodrome. More of his work can be found on his blog: https://abbeykhambule.wordpress.com/